Halloween is one of our most popular holidays, and many in the Buckeye State make an annual ritual of celebrating this eerie tradition at an Ohio State Park. This year will be no different, with many state parks offering a variety of frightfully fun activities throughout October, including night hikes, special campouts and hayrides.
But what is it that draws us to the outdoors during this spooky time of year?
The answer may lie in the origins of this haunted holiday. Legend has it that nearly two centuries ago, the Celtic cultures of Europe celebrated their new year on November 1. On the eve of that day, they believed the boundary between the living and the dead became blurred, allowing ghosts to roam the earth. To honor their dead and help send them on their final journey, they built giant bonfires and made burnt offerings of harvest fruits and vegetables. Over time, this day became known as All Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.
In modern times, the remote, forested locales of most Ohio State Parks provide the perfect backdrop for a yearly replay of Halloween’s history. As daylight fades on carefree playfields and woodland trails, vivid imaginations can conjure spooky images from the unfamiliar sounds, ominous shadows and things that go “bump” in the night. Spooky tales also surround several of the state parks, where creepy encounters have been retold around the campfire for decades.
There’s a haunting tale, for example, about the abandoned Moonville Tunnel near Lake Hope State Park in Vinton County. According to local lore, a careless railroad brakeman was struck down and killed as he waved the locomotive to stop at the station. It is said that late at night, the eerie green and red of the brakeman’s lantern can still be seen shining near the old train tunnel.
There’s also the story of the murderous Ceely Rose, who lived in a white house on the grounds of what would become Malabar Farm State Park in Richland County. Blaming her family for running off a potential suitor, the lovesick teenager slowly poisoned them to death. Today, some people report seeing Ceely’s ghost searching for her long lost love.
This October, take time to learn more about other state park “tales of terror,” indulge in the Halloween spirit and enjoy the outdoors. Here are just a few of the spooky seasonal events you’ll find at Ohio State Parks:
Quail Hollow State Park in Stark County, the elegant former home of railroad magnate H. B. Stewart, is the setting for an annual Hollow-een Fest, October 22 from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Families and friends can enjoy seasonal crafts, refreshments and a bonfire. For a small fee, brave souls can tour the haunted Manor House. Call 330-877-6652 to learn more.
Haunted hayrides, bonfires and storytelling highlight the Fall Festival at Cleveland Lakefront State Park. Festivities are from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on October 22 at the Euclid Beach Pavilion. Crafts and games are also part of this fun-filled evening. Additional information can be found by calling 216-881-8141, ext. 3001.
East Fork State Park in Clermont County is featuring its Not-Quite-Halloween Campout October 21-23. Take in a scary movie, go trick-or-treating and enjoy other “howling” activities. For more information call 513- 734-4323.
Turn loose your creative side during Dillon State Park’s Halloween Campout pumpkin and campsite decorating contests, October 28-29. Located in Muskingum County, the park will also host a trick-or-treat event at the campground! Contact the park office for more information at 740-453-4377.
Amid the hills and hollows of Hocking Hills State Park in Hocking County, Buckeye ghosts and goblins participate in a night hike, hayrides and go trick-or-treating at the campground October 28-29. A campfire will burn brightly adding to the eerie atmosphere. Call 740-385-6841 for more information.
On October 29 at Mary Jane Thurston State Park in Wood and Henry counties, legends and myths about owls and Halloween will be told and dispelled. Those entranced by these creatures of the night should meet at 7 p.m. at the day-use lodge. To learn more about the evening, call 419-832-7662.